Semi-Monde, Noël Coward's Jazz-Age Play Charting Gay Lives, Gets Rare Exposure Feb. 6 in NYC

News   Semi-Monde, Noël Coward's Jazz-Age Play Charting Gay Lives, Gets Rare Exposure Feb. 6 in NYC Noël Coward's Semi-Monde — the playwright's frank look at gay lives — gets its American premiere in a Feb. 6 one-night-only benefit concert performance presented by TACT/The Actors Company Theatre at the Scholastic Auditorium in Manhattan.

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No Photo by Allan Warren

"Set in the lobby, restaurants, and bar of the Hôtel Ritz in Paris," according to TACT, "Semi-Monde [1924] follows the lives and loves of a dizzying array of socialites and wannabes over a three-year period from 1924 to 1926. It is remarkable among its contemporaries due to its prominent sexuality and homosexuality. This, however, is but the facade of Coward's exploration of the disconnected monotony of the lives of the elite. It is assumed he knew that it could not be produced in the environment of censorship that existed in the 1920s."

In private correspondence, according to TACT notes, Coward described the play as "jagged with sophistication," and sought to have it produced in Germany, but because of the salacious nature of its contents, the play was never produced in its time and has never before been seen anywhere in the U.S. (The work's original title was Ritz Bar.)

The 7 PM performance features co-artistic director Cynthia Harris, and TACT company members Mark Alhadeff, Nora Chester, Richard Ferrone, Todd Gearhart, Delphi Harrington, Jeffrey C. Hawkins, Jack Koenig, Ron McClary, MacKenzie Meehan, Margaret Nichols, John Plumpis, James Prendergast, Scott Schafer, Gregory Salata and Lynn Wright plus nine guest artists.

The creative team includes company designer Mary Louise Geiger (lighting), Colin Whitely (sound) and Michael Friedlander (stage manager). The production  is directed by co-artistic director Scott Alan Evans.

Scholastic Auditorium is at 557 Broadway. Tickets are $65 (show only) and $100 (show and a reception with the artists immediately following the performance) and may be purchased online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/216865, or by phone (800) 838-3006. For more information, visitwww.tactnyc.org or call (212) 645-8228.

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Semi-Monde was first produced in 1977 by the Glasgow Citizen's Theatre. The English premiere was produced by the Crescent Theatre, Birmingham, in 1979. It has been produced only once since, in 2001 by the Lyric Theatre of London. No further professional performances are known; the only other productions have been an amateur production by Arts Canterbury in Ottawa in 2006 and a public performance at the Central School of Speech and Drama, London in early 2007.

TACT/The Actors Company Theatre (Scott Alan Evans, Cynthia Harris and Jenn Thompson, co-artistic directors) is the critically-acclaimed Off-Broadway company "dedicated to presenting neglected or rarely produced plays of literary merit."

Its next full production is the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lost in Yonkers by Neil Simon, beginning March 13.

Coward's plays Present Laughter, Blithe Spirit and the Coward-inspired Brief Encounter (borrowing from his film of the same name and the one-act Still Life) were seen on Broadway in recent seasons. A Broadway revival of his play Private Lives, starring Kim Cattrall and Paul Gross, had a brief run in 2011-12 at the Music Box.

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